The IRIS Program travelled to Nhulunbuy (also known as Gove) in the East Arnhem Lands for a two-day surgical visit on 29-30 April 2019. Despite some delivery challenges, the team provided 19 local patients with surgery including 17 cataract surgeries for people from across the Gove Peninsula and islands.
Arriving to some unseasonable, very-late wet season rains the challenges of patient transport were immediately apparent with local rivers impassable and a number of patients unable to access the hospital for their planned procedures. Some hard work from the local teams, and flexibility across the surgical lists, ensured that patients were moved between the surgical lists and they didn’t miss out due to the inclement weather.
The team further worked through the challenges of an inconsistent power grid on the first day with a power outage and hospital generator issues leading to a slight midday pause whilst the hospital team worked to secure a reliable power supply for the theatres.
“The challenges of delivering health services were all apparent during these few days. We had issues with public holidays and locating patients, wet season rains and inclement weather, reliable power supply problems and the challenges of communicating with patients in remote communities. What is always inspiring in healthcare, is that the team always comes together and solves these challenges to ensure patients receive high-quality care and wouldn’t otherwise know the various issues being managed behind the scenes to make this work” said Jason Currie, Chief Operating Officer in Vanguard Health.
By the end of the trip, the weather had cleared and the team had delivered 19 surgeries including 17 cataract procedures for patients across the Gove Peninsula. Services across the Northern Territory are a key part of the IRIS Program’s commitment to deliver 500 cataract surgeries to Indigenous and remote communities by 30 June 2020.
The team is grateful for the support of the team from the Gove District Hospital and the broader Top End Health Service, and is looking forward to two further visits for a clinic in July 2019 and a further surgical list in September 2019.